Leading Edge: WT20 should be blueprint for all tournaments

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

TOURNAMENTS are fakery, particularly in a sport as fraught with variables as cricket. They are rarely won by the best team in attendance. Nor do they offer a true test of those teams.

Pakistan were not the best side at the 1992 World Cup but they had the balls to win it. SA should have won it in 1999 but choked on the thought.

Tournaments are what cricket does to show off, to flex its drama muscles, to celebrate its glorious uncertainties – and, not least, to make a pile of money.

But let’s keep it clean: unlike the narrative of a bilateral series, which builds with each passing delivery, over, session, innings, day’s play and match, a tournament is a highlights package made for television and the modern world.

So why does cricket insist on making most tournaments about as big a drawcard as washing your socks?

Because the suits are greedy. They crammed 51 matches spread over 46 days into the 2007 World Cup, all the more expensively to sell the rights. That equation shrank slightly from both ends at the 2011 World Cup, which featured 49 games in 42 days. But it seems this piece of string has lengthened again – last year the World Cup comprised 49 games in 43 days.

How many of those games do you remember? Grant Elliott launching Dale Steyn for six to win the semi-final is written into cricket lore, so that’s on the list. AB de Villiers flying over the cuckoo’s nest against West Indies sticks out, as does SA’s consummate performance in their quarter-final against Sri Lanka.

But that’s about that. Unless the thumping SA were dealt by India hulks in a dark corner in your memory.

Any takers for the Pakistan game? Or the Windies? Zimbabwe? The United Arab Emirates?

Much of what happens at tournaments melts into a meaningless mental whirl that, with luck, might snag on a synapse and live again for as long as it takes you and your mates to talk your way through a beer.

In cricket, less is often more. But, in line with the thinking that spectators want to see runs, runs and more runs and to hell with the bowlers and any semblance of a contest between bat and ball, the suits shove so many more matches at us that we can’t see the bats for the willow trees.

So what a relief to be smacked in the face by the freshness of the 2016 World T20.

SA’s loss to England in their first game effectively suspended a guillotine over their necks for the rest of the tournament.

Bangladesh blowing a win over India that was already in the bag looked like SA in the bad old days.

Afghanistan’s Mohammad Shahzad is to the WT20 what Tony Manero was to Saturday Night Fever.

But wait. There’s more. But not much more. When the final is won and lost in Kolkata next Sunday we will have seen 35 games in 26 days.

That’s why the drama lingers. More, please, suits. By which we mean less, of course.

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